DEPERTMENT OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
HISTORY OF WESTERN CIVILISATION
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TOPIC: TSAR PETER THE GREAT OF RUSSIA.
Submitted on: 11th November, 2009.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Russia was a vast land but was backward in nearly everything according to European standard. The government was an outdated system, the culture was backward and the people were timid. But the brave activities of a single man, Peter the Great, brought Russia back to limelight and forward toward development and industrialization. His vision was to change the face of Russia, bring it into Europe and move its civilization ahead of every other state that existed at that time. He faced much strong opposition from among his people but he never let that derail his vision for the land. He became Tsar of Russia at a time when the land was surrounded by many strong powers and enemies who were threatening the sovereign existence, peace and development of the state. Therefore he was resolved to settle that situation by waging wars and defeating their oppositions. His determination was further strengthened by his tough upbringing after the death of his father. He was brave, relentless and hard working. He tolerated no rivalry yet he was a simple man, toughened by opposition he mounted the throne like a brave lion ready to spend the rest of his life in defense of his land and policies. This article will focus on his history and his achievements and developments and support the argument that he was the father and founder of civilization in Russia.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PETER THE GREAT
Peter was born in 1672 as the son of Tsar Alexis, the son of his second wife, in the city of Moscow. While he was still four years old, his father died and his half brother Feodor became the Tsar of Russia. Six years later, Feodor died and at the age of ten Peter and his handicapped half brother Ivan was made joint Tsar of Russia. His half sister Sophia was also made the regent since he was young and his half brother was handicapped. Sophia was not happy to have Peter as a co- Tsar with her brother Ivan, so she treated Peter badly. Peter’s mother was not happy with the situation so she took him away from the palace to a village near Moscow. Because he did not grow up in the palace, he enjoyed a free life, and mixed freely with the people. As a young man, his major interest was in the military and shipbuilding. Most of his toys were military equipments. At the age of 17, his mother arranged for him to get marry a young lady who became his first wife and gave birth to a son for him. He latter married a second wife who also gave birth to many children for him. In 1689, he seized power from his half sister Sophia and assumed control of the country. He sent Sophia to the Monastery and made her renounce her position.
THE POLITICAL ACHIEVEMENTS
As I mentioned earlier Peter seized power from his half sister in 1689, but he did not become the sole – ruler of the country until 1696 when his half brother the co-Tsar Ivan died. After the death of Ivan, he began to implement sweeping changes that transformed the politics of Russia forever. He immediately “changed the system of government to an effective autocracy, establishing the senate and the procurator who supervises the activities of the senate.” With a decree, he abolished the old system of government that was in itself hindering the development of the state and established a new system which included: a senate, a procurator, a secret police to monitor every activity in the state and a college that served as ministries. He established an autocratic system of government. Every other reform was only made possible by this initial change in government system because this change gave him an absolute control over the government and the land. During his period, most of the struggles in Europe were between the king and the nobles, the upper class in the society. Before he became king, this system also existed in Russia. As a king he believed that this system will hinder his economic and political changes, therefore he moved towards removing the power from the Boyars who were the upper class society in Russia. They owned large lands and occupied important political offices. Peter removed the position of boyar and collected all the land under the government. He also said that the order of precedence will no longer be by birth but by merit and service to the state. Those who were born into the family of boyars were no more important than those not born into the boyar family. Every boyar who wants any political power must spend his life in service to the state. Only then will he be given lands. They were also mandated to move to the city of St Petersburg and must at least attend a certain level of western education. He exercised great power over the boyars and they could not revolt because of his great standing army. When Peter became the Tsar, Russia had no control over an ice free sea port and this was hindering his desire to improve trade in Russia and improve the states economy. Therefore he was determined to solve this problem despite knowing that it would put him into a struggle with the other states that controlled the sea ports. He was ready to wage wars with both Sweden who was in control of the Baltic Sea and the Ottoman Empire who controlled the Black Sea. His first attempt of war against the Ottoman Empire was not successful, therefore he came back home and embarked on restructuring his army and navy. In 1697, he embarked on a European tour in which one of his aims was to try and convince other European states to join him in a war against the most powerful empire at that time, the Ottoman Turks. The second reason for the journey was to learn from the developmental projects of other European states, and to borrow from their culture. The journey lasted for 18 months and 18 days. On his return to Moscow, he brought with him dozens of engineers and specialist experts in different fields from Europe to help him in developing the land, in building ships and in training the military. Peter was not able to convince the Europeans into an alliance against the Ottoman Turks partly because the Europeans were already preparing for a war that is today know as the war of Spanish succession. He returned home and decided to make peace with the Turks for that moment and push towards the north in his search. He declared war against Sweden but lost the first battle. He came back and reformed his military and was able to win the subsequent wars against the Swedes. His victory forced the Swedish king to go into exile in Turkey. The victory against the Swedes gave him access to lands close to Europe and he constructed the city of St. Petersburg there and moved the capital of Russia from Moscow to the new city. It also gave him access to a new sea port by the Baltic Sea, an ice free port that helped improve trade with Western Europe and other lands. His construction of the new city on the European territory brought Russia into Europe and made it an important state in the region. He transformed the state after his victory over Sweden to and empire and was crowned the Emperor of Russia.
THE ECONOMIC REFORMS
In addition to the administrative and military reforms, Peter the Great changed the economy of Russia. By centralizing the government, he had control over the economy of the entire state. He “introduced a new poll tax, which brought him funding for an active foreign policy and for boosting national manufacturing and trade.” During his eighteen months journey to Europe, he made met many kings and made contacts with many companies. On his way home, he took many engineers who were specialists in different fields. Most of these specialists came from Austria and at that time Austria was strong in trade. With the help of these experts, he changed the system of industrial production and promoted the export of locally made goods to other lands. The new sea port he seized from Sweden was also helpful for this development in trade. He bolstered foreign trade with other lands and this spurred the economic growth that followed.
THE CULTURAL REFORMS
At the heart of every cultural reform is circular or broader education. Peter focused his attention not just on military and political reforms but also on education and culture. He was the first Russian Tsar to sponsor education on a secular line and bring it under the state control. He also exercised control over the church and made a law that the government has to be responsible in appointing the leaders of religions. Additionally, he moved toward changing the cultural view of women as inferior. He encouraged men and women to mix together even in the public. His belief that the European culture was more advanced that their culture moved him to adopt some particles of the European culture and force it on his people. For example, he “insisted that all his courtiers and officials must cut off their long beards… and wear European clothing.” He also changed the calendar system of Russia, forcing them to start celebrating the New Year on January 1st in all Russia.
Tsar Peter the Great also known as Peter 1, was the force that transformed the political, economic and cultural circle in Russia to an enviable height in comparison with that of Europe. By the time of his death, he transformed Russia to an Empire and a force to be reckoned with in Europe. His “regime was in a way imposed by violence and was replete with surveillance, denunciation and brutal punishment.” Peter made use of force and surveillance to make his people obey the rules and follow the reforms, but the result of his actions was very fruitful not just to Russians but to the whole world. His reforms were mainly influenced by his trip to Europe and his western advisors. He implemented sweeping reforms that led to the modernization of Russia despite oppositions even among his own people. He was a strict reformist that was not ready to allow anybody destroy his achievements even when he is dead. This was what led to his killing of his son who was opposed to the reforms and vowed to destroy those reforms when he becomes the Tsar. But apart from his strong determination to reform Russia that made him a hard ruler, he was an open minded person. He “unlike earlier Russian Tsars … was very simple in his manners. For example, he enjoyed conversation over a cup of beer with shipwrights and sailors from the foreign ships visiting St. Petersburg. He did not like splendid clothes … often appeared in worn out shoes and old hat.” His simplicity won his the respect and approval of other European monarch who immediately recognized his new title as the Emperor of Russia. Through his bravery and hard work he brought Russia into the mainstream politics of the world. He Europeanized Russia and brought modernity and civilization to the land. He is the father of modern civilization in Russia.
1) The New Encyclopedia Britainica, 15 edition.
5) Isabel de Madariaga, Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment, Oxford Reference Online. -----------------------
 The New Encyclopedia Britanica, v.25, 531,15th, London.
 The New Encyclopedia Britanica, v.25, 531,15th, London.
 Isabel de Madariaga, Encyclopedia of he Enlightenment, Oxford Reference Online.  The New Encyclopedia Britanica, v.25, 531,15th, London.